Balsamic Vinegar is a traditional favorite among Italian families. This versatile ingredient can be used as glazes, sauces, marinades, you name it. Like most Italian cuisine balsamic vinegar has a deeply rooted history in Italian culture.
Balsamic Vinegar first appeared in historical records when it was gifted to the Holy Roman Emperor Henry III around 1000 A.D. Traditionally the vinegar was given as a gift to important figures, like the Holy Roman Emperor, or used as a tonic for various ailments like sore throats and muscle aches. It was reportedly used as a disinfectant during the Middle Ages. In later years it became common practice for mothers to prepare a batch when their daughters were born and then gift it to them on their wedding days.
Like a lot of dishes, there is no official recipe for making balsamic vinegar. Every maker has their own trade secret that sets their products apart. However, the foundation for balsamic vinegar is always the same. The maker needs to turn sweet white grapes into a syrup and then age it in a wooden barrel. Oak, cherry, and ash are popular wood selections but chestnut, mulberry, and juniper can also be used. This process takes 12 years, at minimum, during which the vinegar is transferred to progressively smaller barrels. Additionally, there has been balsamic vinegar that was aged for almost 100 years.
There are hundreds of different types of balsamic vinegar on the market today but only the items produced in the regions of Modena and Reggio are certified to produce authentic balsamic vinegar. These particular products will have the label ‘aceto balsamic tradizionale’ to distinguish them
from the others. There are approximately 300 certified makers who make up the Denomination di Origine Protetta (DOP) Tradizionale which helps maintain the quality of the product on the market.
Since these traditional balsamic vinegars are limited in quantity and can cost up to $100 or more, chances are many people have never had the real thing. Next time you’re looking for an authentic Italian taste look into purchasing a bottle of this ‘black gold’.
- Balsamic Vinegar [Tastecooking.com]
- About Balsamic Vinegar [Thespruceeats.com]
- History of Balsamic [Gourmetblends.us]
- Black Gold [cbsnews.com]
- Feature Picture [Wikimedia]